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4 HISTORY AND STRUCTURE IN TSIMSHIAN LINEAGE CONSCIOUSNESS 160 H ereditary names are the sites of social valuation of Tsimshian identity, patrimony, and sociality. A name, further, is always rooted in a particular house lineage. The valuation of a lineage and the public recognition of it as embodied in a chiefly title are what feasts and their ancillary ritual cycles are about. I tried in the previous chapter to show that agency, structure, and meaning are located in house lineages and not predicable of more encompassing social units. This is significant, as I indicated in chapter 3, because the house lineage alone provides, in its role as collective feast host group or potential feast host group, the ritual agency that summons participants to lay meanings and values on the host lineage’s treasures. In this chapter, I explore the development of this understanding in Northwest Coast ethnology and build on the concepts developed there to address in detail some intricacies of corporate descent in the northern, matrilineal zone of the Northwest Coast. In particular I join the discussion as to whether and to what extent Tsimshian society features dual organization. The question of whether or not Tsimshians, Gitksans, and Nisgaas have moieties, as some anthropologists have claimed, or, instead, four irreducible phratries (called “clans”) is, then, not a mere question of “two or four?” It has implications for where exchange structures, meaning structures, and subjectivities can be located in the Tsimshian social world. These questions, then, lead to the matter of the relationship between structure and history in Tsimshian life. All ritual meaning—and all land tenure and sovereignty, among much else—is ultimately based in house groups and derives from treasured lineage patrimonies that are often exclusive and always historically determined and not structurally determined through a shared experience of membership in an exogamic group or community. True, as comembers of a community, house lineages share many assumptions and strategies in their social conduct, but foremost among these is the orthodoxy that a house’s business is its own. I will even argue that there is no semiotic sphere in the traditional culture that is public, tribal, or national (though there are emergent nontraditional social spheres at public, tribal-or-national, and even “pan-Indian” levels—emergent spheres that nonetheless continue to play only secondary roles in village life). My argument about Tsimshian social structure is two pronged: first, I scrutinize in general the structure-functionalist and structuralist paradigms that locate meaning and agency in Tsimshian feasting and lineage consciousness either at the community level or in universal unconscious structures. Instead, I note that, as Boas realized, multiple origins of different lineages are emphasized in Tsimshian oral knowledge at the expense of the organization of lineages into phratries and villages, which are explicitly political or residential arrangements that do not mitigate the primacy of the lineages’ patrimonies and identities. In this chapter, I trace first the development of this understanding through the evolution from Boas’s scholarship to that of Barbeau and Beynon. Then I examine statements in the adawx about the origins of lineages as a way of understanding the role of the phenomenon of phratries and, such as they might be, moieties. Although my understanding of the vast and complex adawx record is necessarily provisional, and although in particular the adawx have more to tell about ancient moiety-style arrangements than informs my preliminary discussion here, my conclusions I hope point in a valid direction. My second prong is to compare my conclusions with those reached by students of Haida and Tlingit social structure. This is significant in light of the portrayal of the Tlingit and Haida in some anthropological literature as suffused in a timeless rhythm of reciprocity between feasting and marrying opposites (Rosman and Rubel [1971] 1986). In its place I suggest a model of lineage hyperconsciousness, emphasizing heterogeneous origins (as lineages) over alliances in exogamic groupings (as phratries) and emphasizing the histories that disHistory and Structure in Tsimshian Lineage Consciousness 161 tinguish lineages from one another over the experiences and understandings that unite them. I return to Boas’s schematization of the international heraldic companies (wilnaataa¬) as a much-needed antidote to scholarly trends that dwell instead on apparent tendencies toward a radically bifurcate cosmos. I conclude that the Tsimshian world, at least, is not fundamentally bifurcate in this way. Among the Tsimshian there is no anonymous public sphere, no radically individuated domestic sphere, no domain of important traditional...


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